Across The Country… And Back

Lockdown restrictions eased, on Sunday we headed west, to near Bristol, for a couple of days to see friends:

[Near Bristol. Photo by me, 2020.]

Sitting in their back garden shortly after our arrival, we talked about how these sorts of get togethers had been near impossible since March.

[Silhouette of me. Near Bristol. Photo by me, 2020.]

Me: “It is great to be able to socialize with people in person again.”

Friend: “Yeh, you drive across the country to get bloomin’ us.”

Me: “Well, beggars can’t be choosers.”😂

The next day, we all went for a walk with their dog along the River Severn:

[Near Bristol. Photo by me, 2020.]

Tuesday, we headed off for a saunter around the picturesque village/town of Nailsworth:

[Nailsworth, England. Photo by me, 2020.]

On Wednesday, on our way home we planned to make a stop

[From my Instagram Stories, July 22, 2020.]

Just northwest of London, the town of Chesham features in my two most recent books as it was in the late-1700s to early-1800s. It does so because it is little known (unlike, say, Bath) and impressed me. So I thought it would be “different” as an historical setting.

I came to know it because it is also where my wife’s aunt (her now late father’s younger sister) lives.

Her back garden is lovely… and in her mid-80s, she maintains it herself (aside from a guy who mows the lawn).

[Chesham. Photo by me, 2020.]

We had last seen her in March. She has coped well with the lockdown. (We phoned her every week to check on her.) But she also told me when we were alone briefly that she felt she had lost some of her confidence going out on buses and inside shops.

She had headed out Wednesday morning and purchased some sweets. She wore her mask, she made clear, and said there was only one other bus passenger both ways. For our visit, we brought along the chocolate cake:

[Chesham. From my Instagram Stories. Photo by me, 2020.]

We had a pleasant several hours (always keeping a distance from each other) sitting in her garden discussing family, life and current events. For one, having lived through World War II as a child, she said this pandemic is worse in a way than that was. She pointed out that even as Nazi bombs fell, life went on: pubs were open, children went to school, etc. With this, though, everything has largely stopped.

We talked about books too. She had been an avid reader, but her eyesight has deteriorated in recent years and she now relies on audio books. She had read a couple of mine, but cannot easily read now.

And when you write books, and family and friends have read them even years earlier, you never know what might get mentioned. Lightheartedly at one point she raised an issue with me in a way she never had before. Without warning she asked about my living in France, and about the main woman in the book(s)… and about that “James” (the main character in my first three books).

Caught off guard, I chuckled as I said that discussing that in the present company – I gestured to her niece, MY WIFE – made me, uh, rather uncomfortable. We all laughed next as I explained that I been there a lot primarily because over two decades ago I had become involved with a woman from there and, yes, fictionalizing her and others, including my (now late) novelist uncle, does form the basis for my first three books. I reminded her that I had written them due largely to a “challenge” many years ago from my uncle after he had told me I had plenty to write about if I ever wanted to try to write fiction. Since then, I added, I have moved on, as she also knew, into more “traditional” historical fiction:

[All of my novels to date. Photo by me, May 12, 2020.]

“Fiction comes from fact,” she started to repeat to me… as I agreed and remarked that my uncle had been the one who had told me that over twenty years ago.

I always keep her in mind as THE REAL REASON for audio books. They are not so much for those of us who are just too rushed and prefer to listen in the car, or are just too lazy to put the effort into reading. They really help those who have problems with, or have no, eyesight.

Have a good day, wherever you are. 🙂

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